Videocassette Recorder

The videocassette recorder, or VCR, is a type of tape recorder that uses removable videotape cassettes containing magnetic tape to record audio and video. The VCR is different from the VTR since the VTR can be reel-to-reel devices that require hand-threading of the tape from a single supply reel.

VCR’s have a tuner and programmable timer which began as a simple mechanical counter-based feature similar to those available on contemporary audio equipment. These features quickly turned into a major selling point. The history of the VCR follows the history of the VTR. The successful videotape recorder was introduced in 1956. Since it costs $50,000 only the television networks and large individual stations could afford them. The Telcan, produced in 1963, was the first home video recorder. This first unit was expensive, hard to put together, and could only record 20 minutes output at a time. Sony and RCA came out with VTRs in 1965 that were for consumer home use.

In 1969, Sony demonstrated a videocassette prototype that was promptly set aside in order to create a industry standard with seven fellow manufacturers. The end result was the Sony U-matic system which is the world’s first commercial videocassette format. The cartridges used ¾-inch tapes that had a maximum playing time of 60 minutes. They also introduce two machines that used the new tapes. The U-matic was quick to make other videotape systems obsolete. However, the cost was still too hight to be common in the everyday household.

Philips, in 1970, created a videocassette format that they called the “VCR”. The system used ½ cassette tapes, mounted on co-axial reels with a recording time of one hour. The format was unsuccessful in the home market. In 1977 they created a long-play version wich used the same tapes and sold well to schools and colleges.
The Avco Cartrivision system, combined TV and VCR, was the first to have pre-recorded tapes of popular movies available for rent. The tapes for the Cartrivision could record up to 114 minutes. There was also a optional monochrome camera that could be purchased to make home videos. After thirteen months of poor sales it was abandoned.
It was until the late 70’s that the VCR became a mass market consumer product and even then there were three competing standards with incompatible tape cassettes. Sony’s Betamax and JVC’s VHS were the two major standards that competed for sales. Since the VHS had two hour longer recording length users tended to flock to the VHS. Eventually the VHS was able to record up to 9 hours and had outpaced Betamax and its development.

Film companies started to suppress the device due to concerns about copyright violations. The court ruling eventually said that the device was allowable for private use. Soon film companies realized that videos of their movies would be a major source of income.
There are several bugs that came along with the VHS. Many tapes are “˜chewed’ when ejected. The VHS tapes recorded in LP mode tend to not play back very well on other machines Generally newer VCRs are made with cheaper parts and don’t seem to last as long as older units. DVD overtook VHS as the most popular consumer format in the early 2000s. DVD rentals exceeded VHS in June 2003 and 2006 was predicted as the year that major VHS releases would end. Most manufacturers have slowly reduced their VCR lineups to only a basic model or stopped production completely.

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